Sri Lanka win with two balls to spare
Sri Lanka 287 for 8 (Sangakkara 58, Junaid 3-52) beat Pakistan 284 for 4 (Shehzad 124, Misbah 59*) by two wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Angelo Mathews has not often lived up to his finisher's tag in recent months, but he brought together all the qualities that make fine international captains, as he led Sri Lanka to the biggest successful chase in Dubai. Mathews' hand brimmed with poise, skill and fighting nous and though he did not see out the win, he had helped bring the equation down to four off five deliveries. Pakistan believed they were still in the match in the last over, thanks to Junaid Khan's intense spells, but Sri Lanka's batting depth eventually helped them level the five-match series. The visitors had two balls to spare when they passed the target of 285, with two wickets in hand.
Mathews' score of 47 off 44 did not do justice to his contribution, as his calming influence was vital to the final push. He oversaw it all like a foreman at a roadworks construction site: doing little of the heavy lifting himself, but supervising and directing the operation from close up. Occasionally he chastised staff errors, like when Seekkuge Prasanna slogged dangerously at Shahid Afridi.
He even pulled stunts like deliberately running slow between wickets to induce a shy at the stumps, which in turn would yield an overthrow. Mathews had hit only one four in his first 42 runs, and having eroded the target with a stream of tense runs into the outfield, he seemed to have applied the coup de grace when he twisted the equation in Sri Lanka's favour with a four off Junaid in the penultimate over. But with four needed off the last over, he pulled Afridi straight to short midwicket.
Kumar Sangakkara had struck a responsible half-century, and Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dinesh Chandimal and Nuwan Kulasekara had all played important roles to set up the finish. Dimuth Karunaratne batted way out of position at No.9 after being parachuted into the team when Lahiru Thirimanne picked up a last-minute injury, but his unbeaten 16 alongside Mathews helped keep Junaid, and to a lesser extent Saeed Ajmal, at bay.
Pakistan's innings had also been a work of consummate batting intelligence, as they hit the second-highest total at the venue and lost only four wickets doing it. Like a snowball heading down a slope, it began cautiously, gathered force through the middle and dealt considerable damage towards the end of its course. Ahmed Shehzad had been the mastermind, composing 124 unruffled, unhurried runs, before Misbah-ul-Haq contributed his almost mandatory half-century to the innings. It was Shehzad's fourth ton in ODIs, and Misbah's 14th fifty in 2013. Cruelly for the Pakistan captain, and really through little fault of his own, it came in yet another loss.
Sri Lanka bowled better lines to induce caution from Pakistan early in the innings, but Shehzad's measured approach appeared to have been determined before the match had even begun. Eschewing ambitious strokes, his first objective was to establish steady beat of singles and twos. Even on occasions when Sri Lanka strayed, gaps and not boundaries, were Shehzad's priority. The only insecure moment in Shehzad's progress arrived in the 17th over when Thisara Perera dived hard to his left at short fine leg to collect an aerial flick to the leg side that was deemed to be too doubtful to be given out by the third umpire.
Shehzad had struck only three fours in his first 50 runs, off 75 deliveries, and the team itself only hit seven boundaries in the first half of their innings. But when the balls had worn on a pitch that held no terrors, the scoring rate managed a steady incline, with little added risk to the batsmen. Singles and twos remained the preferred form of advancement during the middle overs, as Senanayake and Prasanna sent down 20 overs of cheap but non-threatening spin.
Misbah and Shehzad's 105-run stand set Pakistan up beautifully for their final surge, and Afridi embellished his record in this tour and against Sri Lanka by providing the final salvo. His unbeaten 15-ball 30 was instrumental in Pakistan taking 93 off the last 10 overs. Misbah remained unbeaten on 59 at the end of the innings.
Dilshan and Kusal Perera were uncharacteristically watchful at the outset of Sri Lanka's reply, and neither batsman appeared to be flustered by the relative paucity of boundaries - almost in imitation of Pakistan's batting blueprint. The ease of their progress had promised a fruitful stand, until Dilshan asked too much of his partner. Having hit two fours off Ajmal's first two balls in the match, he chopped the next one straight to point and called Kusal through. The direct-hit found the batsman well out of his crease for 16, and ended the partnership for 49.
Dilshan didn't survive long after that. His own run-out was more misfortune than misjudgment. His bat got stuck in the ground centimetres from safety, and he lost his grip as the ball hit the stumps.
Sangakkara's 94-run stand for the third wicket with Chandimal provided heft to Sri Lanka's chase, and that partnership conformed to the trend of the match. It began sedately but collected momentum as it grew more substantial. The pair only made 16 off their first 33 balls together, but found freedom once Junaid's first fearsome spell ended after the 22nd over. Working the ball more easily into the gaps and finding the boundary with increasing regularity, 66 came off their last 59 balls together - a period that set Sri Lanka back on track after the early stagnation.
Junaid returned to wipe out the middle order though, finding reverse swing as he zeroed in on the stumps at pace - dismissing Perera, Chandimal and Prasanna by firing balls through their defenses.
Sri Lanka had stacked their side with allrounders, however, and the move paid off. Kulasekara's 32 from 26 helped ease a stiff asking rate before Karunaratne - Sri Lanka's Test opener - came in to help Mathews take the visitors home.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here